Mobile App SEO – Difficult But Not Impossible

Marketing & SEO
Nirav Shastri 20 February, 2019
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If the title of this blog attracted you to click for more, it probably means you have finally built your first app. Well, congratulations! It’s surely a big step for you and your company. However, does it bring enough new clients? No? It`s high time to take care of the mobile app SEO.

mobile app SEO main image

But, if this is your first time building the app, you’ll quickly realize that it is just the beginning. You still have a long way to go – convince people to download your app and find a way to actually make money.

Where to Start with Mobile App SEO?

In order to achieve both, you will require getting your app ranked on the app store. You must have heard about SEO – search engine optimization, right? You engage in SEO activities so that your company ranks high in the search engines.

Well, this is quite similar to SEO. The difference is; it is a mobile app SEO.

With over 2 million mobile apps in the major app stores, it is not at all a cakewalk for you to make your app visible to your potential audience. You really need to put in calculative efforts.

The below graph shows the number of mobile app downloads worldwide in the years 2016 and 2017. It also showcases the prediction for 2021. Take a look! This will give you an idea of how you really need to gear up to market your app store optimization.

number of mobile app downloads worldwide

But, the good news is; once you understand the various methods for marketing your app, things will definitely fall into place the way you must have desired – observing your app being acknowledged by your target audience.

So, are you ready to take the plunge? Let’s walk through the nitty-gritty attached with mobile app SEO.

Brief on Mobile App SEO

By now, you may be clear with the fact that if your app is not ranked properly, nobody will be able to see, find or download it.

It is all about mobile app SEO (search engine optimization).

As said above, mobile app SEO is quite similar to the SEO done for the websites. Though, the rules and algorithms are slightly different. Basically, the mobile app SEO is defined by the term: ASO i.e. App store optimization.

To begin with, let us first go through a study that shows how people discover various apps.

majority of the people discover apps by searching in the app store

As you can see, the majority of people discover apps by searching in the app store. This means, you really need to focus on ASO.

What is ASO (App Store Optimization)?

It is the process through which you can optimize mobile apps to rank higher in the app store’s search results. There is a direct relationship here – the higher the app ranking in search results of app stores, the more is its visibility to your potential audience. And as you all know, the increased visibility will ultimately increase the traffic on your app page – which you wanted in the first place.

optimize the mobile apps to rank higher in the app store

Your goal is to make your target audience download your app – well, ASO does the same as mobile app SEO. Addition to this, the supplemental goals that you can include here are:

  • Enhanced brand exposure.
  • Positive app ratings and reviews.
  • Potential audience engagement.
  • Additional marketing channel diversification.

Why is ASO Mobile App SEO Important?

The most used method by the users to discover and download the apps is simply by searching in the app store. Recently, Ankit Jain at Google I/O reported that “For the most average apps in the store, search makes up the vast majority of installs.”

So, simply put, though ASO continues to be overlooked by the most, if you are not using it to enhance your app’s search ranking, you are literally missing out on something very big, something incredible that is available to your app.

Additionally, when looked at the other side, there is an amazing reality behind it. A majority of the app owners are not investing in ASO, so this can turn out to be your secret weapon. Just start diverting your efforts towards improving your ASO and you are bound to see the difference, and definitely, a positive one – in terms of your app’s ranking and overall success.

Mechanics of ASO (App Store Optimization)

Here, we will try to break down various components to make you clearly understand how they can affect your ASO.

Main Factors of Mobile App SEO

1. Title

Make sure that the keyword that you are planning to place in the title is having the heaviest traffic. Spend quality time in researching that keyword, as changing your title frequently just to include the keywords can be detrimental. Once your app begins to rank higher and gain more reviews, the word-of-mouth will contribute to spreading about the existence of your app. So, in case when you keep on changing the title, it can make it difficult for the users to reach out to you.

2. Keywords

Any day, keywords hold prime importance when it is about optimizing your website or app. In order to improve your search rankings, it is imperative to know which keywords are relevant and used most often by your potential audience. Using the right keywords will also assist you in monitoring your competitors where you will be even able to compare your growth week to week.

3. Description

Along with the title and keywords, a description of your app plays the most important role. It is a must that your app’s description should be considered as a call-to-action for potential customers. In the description, you can cover what it does in simple and concise language. Show the list of the unique features and benefits of your app. App’s description is the way to convince your potential customers to download the app.

Secondary Factors of Mobile App SEO

1. Total number of downloads

Apparently, your number of downloads are extremely important when it comes to ASO, but this also holds true that you do not have complete control over them.

2. Ratings and reviews

Again, this is important as well as difficult to control. However, you can imply different ways like providing incentives to happy users who rate or review your app. This can definitely help you big time.

Using Keywords in Mobile App SEO Title

Neil Patel, an expert in the world of digital marketing, states that a sampling of keywords was done where top 25 ranking positions were considered. These keywords were further calculated on the basis of – title having keyword vs. title with no keyword.

And, here is the result.

use of keywords for app titles

The apps that had keywords in their title ranked on an average about 10.3% higher than those without a keyword in their title!

So, is it worth placing the keyword in your title? The answer is a big YES!

What do you think? Is your app ranking influenced by higher ratings?

To answer this, a random sampling of keywords was tested.

Here, the keywords were categorized by difficulty level. Out of all, less than 25 apps who were trying to rank for that particular keyword had an ‘easy’ keyword. The ‘medium’ keywords are included in 25-100 apps and the ones that are ‘competitive’ were included in 100+ apps.

This clearly states that the apps that have higher ratings also rank higher for keyword difficulty.

So, the answer is loud and clear: YES!

Is getting more downloads and higher app store search rankings correlated?

Well, the details like the number of times an app has been downloaded can only be known by the developer and the app store. So, it is okay to consider the number of ratings instead of the number of downloads. As such; you’ll end up finding that across many apps, the download-to-rating conversion rate is nearly the same. Hence, it is fairly accurate to consider the number of ratings instead of the number of downloads.

The result? The trend regardless of the difficulty of the keywords showed that the apps having more downloads rank higher than the ones that have less number of downloads.

So, should you focus on getting more downloads? YES – without any doubt!

ASO is an Ongoing Activity, Focus on Organic Optimization

seo image

Just like mobile app SEO, engaging yourself in optimizing your app’s visibility is not a one-time job. It is an ongoing process which constantly keeps evolving.

With ASO, you should consistently track and measure the performance as well as results. Doing so will help you to stand out in the app store. But, there is one thing to take note of over here!

Are your ASO marketing tactics using organic search optimization? Are you considering the broader marketing mix while integrating the app stores? Yes, it’s true that you can apply many conventional mobile app SEO techniques to ASO.

For example – you can opt for:

  • App name, title, and URL optimization.
  • App rating reviews generation and handling.
  • Keyword research for ASO.
  • Deep linking with mobile apps.
  • Indexation of apps in Google SERPs (search engine result pages).
  • Click through rate (CTR) optimization and much more.

Let’s know more about this in detail!

Optimization Areas to Focus on for Higher Search Ranking

Including Google Play and other app promotion platforms, you really have a number of areas that can be targeted for updates, refinement, and ongoing optimization.

It is true that the app store features and the available fields are going to vary. But still, there are some core optimization items that you should focus on to enhance your search ranking. So, what are they? These are the following mobile app SEO elements.

App Name, URL and Subtitle

The first and the foremost thing to do is to ensure that the app name, URL and subtitle reflect the core keywords describing your app. Using the right keywords here will reflect the user search behavior in a significant way.

App Keywords

Updating your keywords depending upon the latest as well as changing user search queries is imperative. This will keep you abreast with your target audience’s requirements whilst maintaining your rank in the app store.

App Ratings and Reviews

This is one of the important ranking signals for app stores. And not to forget, a core trust area for the users! Thus, you will need to have a framework in place for generating regular reviews. Not only this, you should even try your best to reply and engage with your reviews.

App Downloads

We have discussed this earlier. To expect a higher demand and buzz of your app, it is important that the number of downloads of your app remains high. So, what should you do? How can you optimize this? Well, maybe an incentive or perks depending on what type of service or product you are offering to your target audience can help! But, again this will be just for that particular time. For on-going organic downloads, you really need to ensure that your app receives the buzz it requires.

One of the lucrative ways to not only increase your users but also retain them while earning their loyalty is to cater to their needs.

For instance, if users want more features on your app, never ignore them. Instead, do it up front as this will keep them engaged as well as interested to use your app. It is simple; if you are not giving the users what they are looking for – they will stop using the app and eventually uninstall it.

So, how to stay abreast with the needs of your target audience?

Focus on Timely App Updates – Keep Evolving!

mobile app user retention main image

It is seen that the apps that are performing best are those that have chosen the route of constant evolution.

Once the app is released, listen to your users’ reviews. If they believe that a particular feature should be enhanced, think about the feasibility and try your best to work it out. You need to identify what your target audience wants the most. Think of ways you can further add it to your app. Thus, constant evolution becomes imperative here. With user feedback, technology updates and feature additions – you really escalate your opportunities of being noticed amongst your potential audience.

If you update your app frequently, you can expect to derive more positive and frequent reviews (definitely the organic ones). Not only this but evolving your app with attractive features can add relevance to your product and also enable your brand to cater to the changing needs of your potential audience.

Above all, the Apple app store and the Google play store also take into account the frequency of your app updates as a part of the ranking algorithm. So, don’t you think updating your app regularly can really turn things in your favor? In short, the more your brand is dedicated to evolving the app product offering, the greater are the chances of getting higher rankings in the app stores.

Okay, so by now we have covered many small and big aspects on what you should resort to – specifically for in-app store tactics. Now, let’s dive into an outer perspective for ASO – basically the checklist that you need to take care of to expect a noticeable difference in your app ranking.

After all, extra knowledge never hurts!

Additional Brownie Yips to Consider for App Store Optimization

1. Identify Both – Your Target Audience as well as Your Competition

It is imperative for you to understand your customers as well as your competitors. This is definitely a basic thing to kick off with while building your app. Unless you understand how your customers use your app and what they are looking for; you are not going to engage them for long. Similarly, you need to have a deep view of your competitive landscape as this will give you an insight into how you can stand out as different.

There is no rocket science involved here; all you need is to ask yourself the following:

  • In which language does your audience prefer to communicate?
  • What will make your potential customers download as well as use your app?
  • How would they portray your app?
  • What keywords are your competitors targeting?
  • What is your competitive benefit?
  • How easily can you compete against your competitor apps on the same keywords?

The best rule to apply for your ASO strategy is to put yourself in your customer’s shoes. Try to find out the search queries that brought your customers to your app. Also, find out the language that they used to describe it. This will enable you to identify the optimal keywords.

2. Maximize Your Keyword for ASO

SEO job qualification - keywords

The concept of maximizing the keywords is not new. But did you know? For ASO keywords, the app store and Google play store have two different approaches!

The app store

The app store provides you with a 100-character keyword field. This can be used for title, keywords or even keyword phrases – whatever you like. This 100-character keyword field is significant as it further defines the search strings that your app will show up for. Thus, it is best to use the allotted characters with important keywords so that it maximizes your organic traffic.

Google play store

The Google play store doesn’t follow the app store style. Rather, it has taken the approach that is more similar to modern SEO. Google does away with the specified tags and scans your app’s description in order to dig out the relevant keywords. There is a limit of 4,000 characters to describe your app. It is best to sprinkle relevant keywords while making sure that they don’t look force-fit. Remember, never over-stuff your description with too many keywords as this can impact negatively.

Keeping these things in mind, you also need to ensure that everything should not be designed just for the algorithm; you should always keep your customer at the forefront. For the best results; the description should be written for the customer first. You can further make the small edits pertaining to the keywords that you are planning to insert. Never forget that both – the keywords and the conversion metrics are taken into consideration by ranking algorithms So, it is necessary for you to balance it all.

3. Create a Convincing Description

You get the exception of placing a few keywords strategically. But, as a whole, never make a mistake of focusing entirely on the search engine index. You should rather focus on your customer base while writing your app’s description. Aim to create a simple, concise description that looks like a call-to-action for potential customers. Convince the readers to download it by listing down the benefits your app offers.

You have won the half battle of proving to the app store that your app is using an appropriate set of keywords. Now, it’s time to gear up for winning the other half – convincing your potential audience to use your app.

4. Include Screenshots in Your App Description

The icon of your app definitely needs to be unique. After all, it will be like the face of your brand in the app store. And, you wouldn’t want to leave any chance of creating a strong impression, right?

Well, similarly, other aspects like screenshots too can make a great difference. They too drive downloads, though you may not find its effect directly on the search rankings. Images have the potential to convey more on what the app is actually all about. It assists your target customers to envision your app before they download it.

For an Android app, you have the flexibility to upload up to eight screenshots while it is up to five screenshots if you have an iOS app. However, the gallery on the page load will display only the first 2-3 screenshots. So, make sure that your screenshots speak loud and clear about what your customers will benefit. This will further convince them to browse your additional screenshots or download the app straight away.

5. Localize Your App Listing

Last, the world majorly speaks their native languages. There is altogether another world of consumers who don’t speak English. So, if you think that your major target audience is not English speaking, it is wise to adopt the language according to the needs of your respective audience segment.

Both the major play stores allow you to localize your listing in order to make it easier for the customers to discover and read in different countries. Doing so will help you increase adoption as well as conversion – ultimately contributing to your app store optimization.

ASO Takes Time – Be Patient

ASO is a process that you will need to constantly monitor and tweak over a period of time. You will need to consistently track it as well as your competitors’ rankings. It is recommended to regularly test and experiment with your high-targeted keywords. This will increase your chance of getting a better rank in the app store in addition to attracting more traffic to your download page.

Remember, slow and steady wins the race. Being found is one of the most difficult challenges for mobile apps, but with a proper approach, you can absolutely emerge out as a winner.

Tags: messaging apps mobile site version Mobile Web Design SEO seo guide
Author: Nirav Shastri
Nirav Shastri is a Sr. Digital Marketing Strategist at Space-O Technologies, Mobile App Development Company. He has 7+ years of experience in the Information Technology industry that inspires him to share his knowledge through articles. In fact, Nirav also works with a team of experienced creative digital strategists to generate unique and data-driven campaigns. He also spends his time reading about new technology and watches motivational videos. You can connect with him on LinkedIn and Twitter.
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